Daniel Kalinaki's weblog

A commentary on news and events in Uganda and elsewhere


Just an ordinary bloke.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Cutting Down Mahogany Trees and Sowing Mustard Seeds

LONDON - When I left last weekend, Kampala was abuzz with two stories that, from the surface, appear to be only about the environment. First was the public protests over government's decision to degazette about 7,100 hectares of the virgin, pristine Mabira tropical rainforest in the heart of the country to allow a sugar plant owned by the Mehta family to double their capacity.

The other story was about Vice President Prof. Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya, who found himself at the heart of a sex scandal that forced him to cut short his 'development tour' of the country. Mahogany, as Bukenya has described himself in previous battles against a so-called Kitchen Cabinet mafia that he says is out to get him, was accused of planting his mahogany seed in a hitherto little-known woman, Jamilah Nakku, who is currently going through divorce proceedings with her husband.

You must, of course, forgive the quality of that pun, but this was no laughing matter as the VP's dirty linen was spread out to dry and as the custodians of morality in the Catholic Church, to which the VP belongs, called for his head. The reaction from the chaplains was predictable. Closed away in the Catholic cupboard of celibacy, they were always going to cast the first stone.

They also felt justified in their attack on the VP because it is widely assumed that he was appointed to that office largely as a balancing act for the Catholics in the country.

Now, I am certainly disinclined to add to the pile of boulders at the VP's feet and the liberal anarchist in me is inclined to believe that Bukenya's philandering are between him, his wife, and his God.

Of course public officials have to be paragons of morality and to lead by example, etc. On that standard it would be right to cut Bukenya lose because he, unlike his colleagues in cabinet and elsewhere, both above and below, got caught. Sexual shenanigans, including polygamy, defilement, etc are rife in our government and society.

What I would like to know, however, is whether the VP influenced Nakku's appointment to State House where she is employed as an aide of sorts, and whether he influenced her inclusion to his entourage when he got stranded by a coup (and as it turns out, Nakku) in Thailand. If he is found to have abused his office, Mahogany should face the axe. If Mahogany 'only' planted his roots in a different hole, the man should be left to his wife and God.

The trees in Mabira, however, should not just be left to God. The New Vision has soared above the competition (like a Mahogany tree) in its coverage of the scandal (a much bigger scandal than the VP's restless tree, if you ask me). What has not been reported -- but has been widely rumoured -- is that the lease to most of the land on which the Mehta sugar plantation sits has or is on the verge of expiring, and that negotiations to renew the sugarcane lease have turned sour.

The outgrowers who also supplement Mehta's sugarcane raw materials are also reported to be disaffected and considering a switch to a new fly-by-night sugar factory set up only recently in the area. If either scenario is true, Mehta is certainly in trouble and needs some form of help to stay afloat.

Any help from government, however, should be in the form of tax credits or helping him to negoatiate with the landowners and have hi lease renewed. It should not be in the form of giving away virgin forest cover.

In his book, Sowing the Mustard Seed, President Yoweri Museveni waxes lyrical about his life-long drive and ambition to liberate Ugandans politically and economically. The jury is still out on whether the political liberation aka the 'fundamental change' is temporary or a mere papering over the cracks. Economic development, however, will certainly not come by pawning the family silver as giving away Mabira represents. To do so would be to see the forest for the trees, instead of seeing the trees for the forest.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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5:01 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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5:29 am  

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